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SLGY 3323 - Fall 2023 Library Session

Research Proposal Assignment

1. Part I: Research Question Write-Up

2. Part II: Literature Review and Reference List

  • Locate 5 refereed journal articles directly related to your research question(s) and useful in answering your research question(s)

  • Include an introduction and conclusion

  • Organize the literature review by theme rather than author

  • Use APA 7 style in-text citations to credit your sources

  • Prepare a reference list in APA 7 style

  • Format and length: double-spaced, Times New Roman, 12-point font size, maximum 3 pages in length

3. Part III: Methodology and Justification

Your Research Question

Clear: It is easily understood by your audience/reader.

Focused: It is narrow enough to allow you to address it in your assignment.

Concise: It is expressed in the fewest possible words (not too wordy).

Complex: It cannot be answered with a yes or no, and it is not a leading question.

Open: It actually can be researched - naturally, it should generate more questions.


Your topic:

teenagers' understanding of beauty

Rephrase your topic as a question:

What are the lived experiences of black teenagers in regards to beauty as a concept?

Possible search concepts/terms:

  • lived experiences

  • black teenagers

  • beauty

What is a Literature Review?

A literature review is:

  • a synthesis or overview of the research on a particular topic
  • a critical analysis of the existing literature
  • a means to identify gaps in the existing research or areas of further study

A literature review is not:

  • A list of articles
  • An annotated bibliography

What is the purpose of a literature review?

Graphic titled What is the purpose of a literature review? Ideas highlighed in the graphic are :To find out what information already exists in your field of research, identify gaps in the literature, find other people working in your field, identify major seminal works, identify main methodologies and research techniques, identify main ideas, conclusions and theories and establish differences and similarities, provide a context for your own research, and show relationships between previous studies or theories.

Graphic by TUS Library MidlandsCC-BY-SA 4.0

Additional Resources:

Scholarly vs. Popular Sources

scholarly publication contains articles written by experts in a particular field. The primary audience of these articles is other experts.

Many of these publications are also referred to as "peer-reviewed," academic, or "refereed." They all mean essentially the same thing and refer to the editorial and publication process in which scholars in the same field review the research and findings before the article is published.


Scholarly / Peer-Reviewed

Popular / Not Scholarly (but possibly still credible!)


  • Expert

  • Journalist / professional writer

Review Process

  • Reviewed by an editorial board or other experts ("peers")

  • Reviewed by an editor

Audience /

  • Scholars and students

  • Technical language

  • General public

  • Easy to understand


  • Original research

  • Uses previously published literature for background

  • News and practical information

  • Uses a variety of sources for background 


  • Always cited

  • Sometimes cited


  • Peer-reviewed articles

  • Scholarly books

  • Literature reviews, systematic reviews, and meta-analyses

  • Theses and dissertations

  • Magazine articles

  • Newspaper articles

  • Blog articles

  • Encyclopedias

  • Textbooks

  • Websites

  • Social media

Some Helpful Questions for Identifying a Scholarly/Academic Article

  1. What are the author’s credentials? Was it written by an expert?

  2. Was it published in a journal (is there a DOI?)? (If you are not sure if a source is a journal article, you can enter the title of the publication into Ulrichs Web to check.)

  3. Does it use academic or more technical language?

  4. Does it includes a reference list of sources that it is citing?

  5. How long is it? (Scholarly articles are typically longer than popular or news articles.)

  6. Does it have a "Received" and "Accepted" date on it?

  7. Is it an actual article? (Sometimes other types of content are included in scholarly publications, such as editorials/opinion pieces and book reviews. Make sure you are looking at an article.)

Conducting a Literature Review

1. Define your research question

  • You may need to some exploratory searching of the literature to get a sense of scope, to determine whether you need to narrow or broaden your focus

  • Identify databases that provide the most relevant sources, and identify relevant terms to add to your search strategy

  • Finalize your research question

2. Determine what you will include/exclude from your review

  • How far back in time will your search go? 

  • What types of sources will you include in your literature review? Are you interested in journal articles, books, dissertations/theses, and reports from non-profits or government agencies? This will largely depend on your discipline. 

  • Are you focused on finding a particular type of research study (e.g. you only are interested in finding randomized controlled trials)?

3. Choose databases and conduct the search

  • Conduct searches in the published literature via the identified databases. For a list of recommended databases in your field, visit the relevant Subject Guide. Depending on your topic, you may also want to search databases listed on other subject guides e.g. if your topic is exam stress and nursing students, you might look at the databases listed on both the Nursing and Education guides.

  • Examine the citations of on-point articles for keywords, authors, and previous research (via references). You can also use tools like Google Scholar or Scopus to see who has cited articles since their publication. This process, called citation chaining, is explained in more detail in the following videos: Part 1Part 2.

  • Watch for sources that have been cited many times by other scholars. These are often seminal works - meaning they are considered foundational to the field. Sometimes these articles/books were published many years ago, so if you are using date limits in your Google Scholar or database search you may be excluding them from your results.

  • Save your search results in a citation management tool such as Zotero or Mendeley

4. Synthesize the information gathered

  • Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of individual sources

  • Group your results into an organizational structure that will support why your research needs to be done, or that provides the answer to your research question  

  • Develop your conclusions

5. Analyze the information gathered

  • Are there gaps in the literature - aspects of the topic where little or no research has been conducted or questions remain? One place to find references to gaps in the literature are in the discussion/conclusions sections of research articles, as authors are expected to identify areas for future research. 

  • Who has done significant research on the topic?

  • Is there consensus or debate on this topic?

  • Which methodological approaches work best for answering the research question?

6. Write the literature review

  • Pick an organizational structure, i.e., themes, approaches, concepts, methodologies.

  • Organize your citations and focus on your research question and pertinent studies

  • Compile your references or works cited page

Organizing and Synthesizing Your Research

It is important to find a way to organize your ideas as you are reading articles. Some people find it helpful to create a synthesis matrix or concept map while they are reading to help them identify major themes and how different authors contribute to the theme.

Synthesis Matrix

The matrix method is one way of contrasting your sources in preparation for synthesis.

Use a table in Word with a column for each of your sources. Develop rows based on key themes in your paper with room for more columns that emerge from your readings. When a source relates to one of the columns, note the key point in the box, and add a page number so you can find the point again quickly.

Topic: Pet ownership during COVID-19 and impact on owners and pets


Jezierski et al., 2021a

Jezierski et al., 2021b

Philapou et al., 2021

Ikeuchi et al., 2021

Impact of pet on owners

Cats reduce “psychological tensions” p. 8

Dogs positive impact on owner mental state p.5

Dogs and cats led to poorer quality of life, no impact stress/loneliness (p. 425)

Pets reduced neg impact social isolation older adults (p. 7)

Impact on the pet

Cat behaviour unchanged or positively impacted p.8

Dog behaviour unchanged or positive but more problems if in lockdown or no back yard  p. 6



Impact of type of pet




Dog ownership more impact on loneliness than cat ownership (p. 6)

Additional Resources

Conducting Academic Research With LibrarySearch 

LibrarySearch is MRU Library's one-stop search interface/catalogue that brings together resources across format, time, and subject. 

We have about 1.3 million e-resources and 221,000 physical resources in our collection, and LibrarySearch searches across those.

Things to remember when using LibrarySearch:

  1. Sign in to save searches, items, and to request materials.

  2. Use the pin icon to save books and articles to your Favorites for future reference.

  3. Use the filters on the right. You will use Availability, Resource Type, and Date filters most often. Filter settings can be "locked in" so that you don't have to reapply them to every search that you make.

  4. Some items may not be available, however, you can request unavailable items using what is called interlibrary loan.

  5. When viewing an item record, scroll down to the Get it (for hardcopy/physical items) or Access options (for electronic items) section to get access to the item.

Helpful Search Operators to Use in LibrarySearch

You can use what are called search operators to search in a way to combine or omit different terms by telling the search engine exactly what you want and this can help you save some time (and frustration!)

  • Use quotation marks to keep specific phrases together:

    • "social media"

    • "public space"

    • "inclusive design"

    • "fast fashion"

  • Use AND to combine search terms (LibrarySearch automatically creates an AND when you write terms one after another, but it can be good practice to use an AND to help you understand the searches that you build) (AND narrows your search):

    • "social media" AND privacy

  • Use OR to connect two or more similar terms (OR broadens your search):

    • "social media" OR "social networking"

  • Use wild cards to substitute a letter or suffix with a symbol:

    • access* (in this example, the search access* will search for records that contain strings such as accessible and accessibility)

Conducting Academic Research With Google Scholar

Google Scholar

Google Scholar is another great way to find high quality resources.

Besides providing links to resources in MRU databases, Google Scholar links to online repositories that contain articles the author has been allowed to upload. and ResearchGate are among the repositories searched by Google Scholar.

By clicking on the Settings icon, you can select library links to show library access for up to 5 libraries (type in Mount Royal and click on save).  If you are logged into MRU library, links should automatically populate if you are running a Google search in another window. 

Google Scholar has a nifty citation chaining function. The Cited by function will forward you to indexed scholarly material that has cited a resource that you may be interested in. The Related articles link will direct you to similar articles that may have the same metadata or keywords. 

Helpful Search Operators to Use in Google Scholar

Google Scholar's Advanced Search is found by clicking the menu icon in the top left.

You can also add search operators to Google Scholar searches to build your own custom advanced searches in similar ways to LibrarySearch:

  • Use quotation marks to keep specific phrases together:

    • "climate change"

  • Avoid using AND to combine search terms with Google Scholar, as the search engine automatically creates ANDs between concepts and sometimes adding an additional AND can confuse the search syntax.

  • Use OR to connect two or more similar terms:

    • "social media" OR "social networking"

  • Use wild cards to substitute a letter or suffix with a symbol:

    • ethic* (in this example, the search ethic* will search for records that contain strings such as ethics, ethical, and ethically)

Citation Help


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Joel Blechinger
Phone: 403.440.8624
Office: EL4423E